Poker Under Arms

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Poker Under Arms (武装ポーカー Busō Pōkā) is a Japanese shōnen manga one-shot written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki.

Having been a "Selected Work" runner-up at the Tezuka Awards, this Wild West one-shot was Araki's first published work and his official debut as a manga artist.

A tankōbon of Araki's other manga, Gorgeous Irene, also features Araki's original works, including Poker Under Arms.

Summary

A Western set in a town without laws. The story begins with a wealthy old man telling his accounts of a dangerous poker game between gunmen.

Don Peckinpah (ドン・ペキンパー Don pekinpā) is an infamous gunman with a bounty of $10,000 on his head, making him a constant target for bounty hunters looking for fame and riches. He is often described as being the devil, due to his malicious yet calm nature. At the start of the story, Peckinpah has just killed his latest victim, a bounty hunter who tried to ambush him at the barbershop. Peckinpah is impressed by the cleverness of the ploy but states that it wasn't enough because he is smarter and a faster draw.

After leaving the barber, Peckinpah enters a bar and orders a drink. At the bar, he overhears a group of poker players and asks if he can join them. One of the players, Mike Harper (マイク・ハーパー Maiku hāpā) is an equally skilled gunman with also bounty of $10,000 who's just arrived in town. To show off, Peckinpah takes four cards and flicks them into the deck to push out the four aces. Not to be outdone, Harper then mixes the deck so that the four aces end up at the top, scaring the other players away. The two gunmen agree to play one-on-one.

Mike Harper quickly reveals himself to be the better player and keeps winning. Frustrated by his losing streak, Peckinpah takes out his anger on a drunken old bum interrupting the game. Regaining his composure, Peckinpah devilishly suggests that they bet their guns to make the game more interesting, which would the loser defenceless against anyone wanting to claim their bounties. Unaware of the bluff, Mike Harper reluctantly agrees. Peckinpah secretly switches his cards and reveals his hand, four of a kind in queens. Unfortunately, Harper has also cheated and also has four queens. When the bum points this, out, Peckinpah and Harper throw the table and draw. At this moment, the old bum throws a molotov cocktail at the two gunmen, killing both.

And so the old rich man's story ends. The old man's girlfriend appears to remind him they have to go back him. The woman also mentions seeing him in the newspapers having killed two criminals and saying that being a sheriff must be hard, revealing the old man's true identity.

Characters

Making-Of

In his book Hirohiko Araki's Manga Technique, Araki explains how he's designed his one-shot to be as appealing as possible.

For starters, Araki chose the Western setting to stand out from the competition. Having the idea of a story about gambling and violence, Araki titled his work "Poker Under Arms" to evoke both of these concepts. Figuring that most competitors would feature their protagonists in the cover page, Araki decided to do the opposite and draw an unknown man being gunned down during a game of poker.

To start the story, Araki eschewed directly introducing his protagonists and instead used the character of the old man as a mysterious narrator. Araki then purposefully introduced Don Peckinpah in the second page in the barbershop to show the reader that he was a formidable gunman and a guy tough enough to be able to care about his appearance in the midst of a dangerous gunfight. Araki also decided to have Don Peckinpah gun down someone in an unusual place (the barbershop) to show the readers that the setting wasn't a normal town.

Araki also designed Don Peckinpah and Mike Harper's appearances so that they contrasted each other. Details include Don Peckinpah's whirt shirt against Harper's dark jacket, Peckinpah's dark hair against Harper's light hair, or Peckinpah's thick eyebrows against Harper's narrow ones.

Trivia

  • Some of the characters in this seminal work bear a similar appearance to others in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
    • One of the main characters, Mike Harper, has a similar appearance to Robert E. O. Speedwagon.
    • The narrator of the story, having once looked like an old bum, bears a striking resemblance to Dario Brando.

References

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